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Rick Perry Asks For Help From Washington For Texas Wildfires—Where Are The Tea Party Volunteer Disaster Relief Teams?

Texas Governor Rick Perry wants President Barack Obama to declare parts of Texas as disaster areas because of ongoing wildfires.

( Above—2011 Texas wildfires.)

From CNN

‘Texas Gov. Rick Perry is asking the federal government to declare the state a disaster area, a bid to spur assistance during a particularly potent wildfire season that has imperiled lives, structures and livelihoods in 252 counties, his office said in a statement Sunday. In his letter written late Saturday to President Barack Obama, sent through a Texas-based Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Perry said that above-average temperatures, lack of rain and low humidity have “caused extreme fire danger over most of the state.” “The wildland fire risk potential has reached a critically high level,” the governor wrote. These conditions “present a serious hazard to the lives and property of the citizens of the state.”

I see.

Texans need help from the federal government because of things beyond their control.

I thought the conservative Texas ethos was that a man or woman controls his or her own fate.

This call for help from Washington is being made by a Governor who has engaged in treasonous speculation about secession, and who is pushing savage budget cuts on the most vulnerable Texans.

We should recall that while those suffering from the impact of wildfires merit quick help, many in Texas nursing homes or many Texans who are sick due to no fault of their own also need help.

Of course, it is no surprise that Rick Perry wants help from Washington. According to a map prepared by Texas State Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, Texas took almost $28 billion dollars in federal stimulus money.

I’d also like to know when the Tea Party volunteer fire companies and the Tea Party disaster relief teams will be rushing to assist people impacted by the fire? Where are county Republican parties in Texas organizing teams of citizen-volunteers to help out our fellow Texans so that they will not have to turn to government?

Are we going to allow socialized fire companies of public employees team up with Washington to do the job that everyday Texas citizens should be doing?

People who have been harmed by the fires should be helped. However, since many of our political leaders in Texas would rather people die than use the Rainy Day fund or raise the taxes needed to meet the legitimate needs of Texans, it is fair to comment when these same officials declare that some Texans are indeed worthy of help from government.

Let’s be clear about the facts—

1. Despite all the tough talk, Rick Perry calls on Washington and Barack Obama for help to solve problems facing Texas.

2. Despite all the criticisms of the federal government from Republican political leaders, Texas received many billions of dollars of Barack Obama approved stimulus funds.

3. While I’m certain many very good citizen volunteers are helping out with the wildfires, the Tea Party movement and other Texas conservatives who sing the praises of citizen action are no place to be found in any organized fashion when help is needed most.

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 62 Comments

Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez May Seek 2012 Democratic Senate Nomination In Texas—TPA Round-Up

At the end of this post is the weekly posting of the Texas Progressive Alliance Round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

With the round-up this week is the news that Democrats are recruiting retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez to run the U.S. Senate from Texas in 2012. This is the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

(Above–General Sanchez.) 

General Sanchez had a role in authorizing the torture at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq. He is 59 and lives in San Antonio. He is, it appears, a Democrat.

From the Ft. Worth Star Telegram—

“I would describe myself as during my military career as supporting the president and the Constitution,” Sanchez said. “After the military, I decided that socially, I’m a progressive, a fiscal conservative and a strong supporter, obviously, of national defense.” Sanchez, a Rio Grande City native, said he was shaped by his upbringing. “It’s my views and my history, having grown up in South Texas, depending on social programs and assistance, that America has a responsibility to its people,” he said.”

My good friend Perry Dorrell at the top Texas politcial blog Brains & Eggs is not impressed by the idea of General Sanchez seeking public office here in Texas.

From Brains & Eggs—

“….I’m particularly out on generals who implicitly or otherwise approved of torture. I’m out on conservative Democrats — especially those who describe themselves as ‘fiscal conservatives’, because it’s nothing but a dog whistle to the TeaBaggers..” 

On the hand my friend McBlogger in Austin feels that General Sanchez might make a good candidate for Texas Democrats.

From McBlogger—

” ….first off, the Abu Ghraib thing. He wasn’t directing the troops in the prison to do what they did, however, he took responsibility as their highest ranking commanding officer…” 

As for myself, I’ve not yet formed a view.  It is early in the process .As soon as I do have a more clear view, the blog reading public will be the first to know.

Here is the round-up—

Off the Kuff discusses the bet the Republicans have made about how the voters will react to deep cuts to public education.

At TexasKaos, Lightseeker warns Don’t Buy Into the Lie – Help Spread the Truth About the Fiscal Mess! Updated with video! Check it out – be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

From Bay Area Houston: Unlike the GOP, which believes the solution to teen pregnancy is duct tape and a $50,000 speaking engagement by Bristol Palin, Planned Parenthood actually provides education services, family planning services, and low cost birth control.

Barack Obama asked the question “Are You In?” last week, and PDiddie atBrains and Eggs decided he wasn’t.

Texas has a revenue problem that’s so bad even the GOP is starting to realize it. WCNews at Eye On Williamson posted about that: Texas GOP tax talk getting louder. Continue reading

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 5 Comments

Cesar Chavez Blvd. Is Closed And Detoured To The Right—Let’s Get It Back Open And Move Forward

I was driving around Houston a few days ago and I came upon this road repair area.

It seemed unfortunately symbolic of where we are politically —for the moment at least—-in both Texas and in our nation.

In this picture you see that Cesar Chavez Boulevard is closed and has been detoured to the right.

The path forward towards greater freedom and opportunity has been blocked by the scapegoating of the poor, union busting, and attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The good news is that every individual has the ability to make the decision to work with others for a better Texas and a better nation. We can reopen the road forward.

You always have the option to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes you value, and even run for public office.

Here are facts about the life of Cesar Chavez. 

Use the example of Mr. Chavez’s life and your own beliefs and talents to convey the clear message that this closure is just temporary, and that the newly repaired road will be smooth and wide enough for all to travel.

April 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 6 Comments

Katy Students Walk Out To Protest Education Cuts—Now They Can Go Home And Ask Their Parents If They Voted For Republican Rick Perry

Students in the Katy Independent School District–located here in the Houston-area–walked out of class Thursday afternoon to protest sharp public education cuts being planned in the Texas Legislature.

From the Houston Chronicle—-

“An estimated 400 students at two Katy ISD high schools walked out of class today to protest teacher layoffs triggered by a state budget shortfall. Students spent about 30 minutes outside the Morton Ranch High School building, a few even attempting a 3-mile march to the Katy ISD administration building. Later this morning, hundreds walked out of classes at the district’s Cinco Ranch High School.”

Good for these young people. It is up to each individual to do the work of freedom and democracy.

Individuals must make the call to work together for a better society.

Let the example these students have set be a lesson to all people that we can always fight for what is right.

Now what these students can do is go home and ask their parents if they voted for Republican Governor Rick Perry, and for the Republican legislators who are enacting these cuts in our state legislature in Austin.

They can ask their parents if they voted at all in 2010.

Election results matter.

And when you vote for Republicans in Texas, what you get are drastic cuts to education funding.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Texas Wildfires Are Ongoing—Facts About Wildfires

There are major wildfires taking place in all over Texas, in other plains states, and in portions of Mexico.

(Above– The current Texas Wildfires as seen from the U. of Texas owned McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.)

(Blogger’s Note 9/7/11—This post is from April. Here is a link to the current wildfires in Texas. If you review this post, you’ll see that there are facts about wildfires in general that are useful to understanding what is taking place.)

Update 4/22/11–Texas Governor Rick Perry has asked people to pray for rain.

Update 4/21-11—Cooler and more humid weather is helping firefighters.

Update 4/20/11—This report from the morning of the 20th says that fires are burning in every part of Texas

Update 4/20/11—People in England are reading about the fires.  

Update 4/19/11—As of the evening of the 19th, the wildfires are moving towards the Dallas-Fort Worth area.   

Update 4/19/11–More and more fires in Texas.

Update 4/18/11—Here is an overview of the situation in Texas from the Abilene Reporter-News.     

Update–4/17/11—Despite his ceaseless criticisms of the federal government, Texas Governor Rick Perry has asked for federal help with the fires from President Barack Obama.

Update–4/17/11–New fires and gusty winds to spread those fires are the unfortunate conditions in parts of Texas.

Update–4/16/11–With the fires also taking place in Mexico, the U.S. has sent some airplanes to help our neighbors out.

Update–4/16/11—The fires have cost a 105 year old Texas man the homes he grew up in and lived in.

Update–4/15/11–Here is a report about the fires from late in the evening of the 15th. This report includes the sad news of the death of a firefighter. 

Update—4/15/11—While some fires are mostly contained, other are starting or rekindling.

Update —4/15/11 —The Texas Forest Service has ongoing reports of wildfires in Texas. 

Here are a number of facts about wildfires from National Geographic.

From National Geographic—

There are three conditions that need to be present in order for a wildfire to burn, which firefighters refer to as the fire triangle: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, brush, even homes. The greater an area’s fuel load, the more intense the fire. Air supplies the oxygen a fire needs to burn. Heat sources help spark the wildfire and bring fuel to temperatures hot enough to ignite. Lightning, burning campfires or cigarettes, hot winds, and even the sun can all provide sufficient heat to spark a wildfire. Although four out of five wildfires are started by people, nature is usually more than happy to help fan the flames.”

Here is a fact sheet from the Centers For Disease Control that talks about the potential health effects of wildfires and how you can protect yourself from these risks.

Here is the FEMA web page on wildfires.

Quite aptly, April is Wildfire Awareness Month in our nation.

As of the afternoon of Wednesday, April 13, Big Bend Now reports that while some of the fires in Texas are contained to a degree, there are still a number of concerns.

The Mineral Wells (Tx) Index has a very good April 13 report on where the different fires are taking place in Texas.

Marfa Public Radio is keeping folks up to date.

Because conditions are so dry in much of Texas, there are, as of April 13, 194 Texas counties with burn bans in effect.

If you are the one who starts a fire in your community because you have broken burn ban rules, you will forever be seen by your neighbors as the town dumbass.

Texas is so large that it can be difficult to grasp where Texas news events are located. While I’ve lived in Texas for 13 years and have explored at least some of the state, these fires are hitting areas of Texas I’ve never visited.

The excellent Handbook of Texas Online is a great resource to learn all about the state. These are the folks who publish the Texas Almanac. The Almanac is another great was to find out about Texas. You should buy a copy.

I’ve long been of the view that many of problems of urban Texas—I live in Houston— have much in common with the problems of rural Texas. I’d be certain that the good folks in West Texas who have suffered from these fires will need the help of individual citizens, charitable groups, and of government to recover.

The Jeff Davis County Relief Fund in Fort Davis, Texas is taking donations to help people.

Here is the link to the FEMA Fire Management Assistance Grant Program which helps state, local, and tribal governments recover from wildfire damage.

My friend Harold Cook who very familiar with this part of Texas–and with of all of Texas for that matter–has written about the fires at his blog Letters From Texas. The great Texas political blog Juanita Jean has also posted on this important topic.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Despite How Much Texans Say They Love The Federal Government, Space Shuttle Not Landing In Houston

Many in Houston are upset that the Obama administration did not locate one of the three soon-to-be retired space shuttle orbiters at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

(Above–The Space Shuttle Endeavour flying over the Johnson Space Center and Houston. It will not be landing in Houston.)

It is hard to imagine that anybody thought one of these shuttles would come to Texas. Given all the anti-government talk in Texas, you’d think that we would not want anything at all from the feds.

The Johnson Space Center is in Texas in the first place due to the efforts of the New Deal-inspired Lyndon Johnson.

Maybe the federal government has not deserted the space program in Texas, so much as Texas has embraced an extreme politics that rejects the things that have helped Texas grow over the years.

(John Coby at Bay Area Houston says that Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, who represents the Johnson Space Center area, did a poor job working to get the shuttle for Houston.)

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Course The Texas Motor Speedway Received A Large Public Subsidy When It Was Built

Republican U.S Senator from Texas John Cornyn attended a NASCAR race at the Texas Motor Speedway over the last weekend.

Above is a picture of our white-haired blue-shirted Senator.

He is just one of the folks out at the NASCAR race. He is just one of us.

When I saw that our conservative  government-bashing Senator Cornyn had visited the Speedway, I just knew that the Texas Motor Speedway had to have been built with at least some government help.

I Googled something like “texas motor speedway public money” and found that–of course–the construction of the Texas Motor Speedway had received a significant public subsidy, and that the owners of the speedway have a 30 year exemption from city and county property taxes.

The book Sports Finance by Gil Fried, Steven Shapiro, and Timothy Deschiver reports that the speedway received $16 million in tax money from the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for road and sewer improvements.  This money was in addition to the 30 year tax break.

The Texas Motor Speedway opened in 1997.

I’ve got no problem with NASCAR. If folks want to see an automobile race, then that is great.

It simply would be good if people like Senator Cornyn would admit that government has always had a large role to play in the building of Texas.

And, since Senator Cornyn will never tell the truth about much of anything, if would be helpful if everyday Texans better understood that they benefit all the time from the works of government.

Though, as it so often is with these things, while helping with the roads and sewers for the Speedway might be of some economic value to the people of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, the 30 year property tax exemption is another matter.

The next time NASCAR fans in Texas ponder the subject of welfare, they might keep in mind who really gets the big breaks.

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Stone Which Has Been Rejected Will Become The Cornerstone

At the Houston Astros’ game this weekend, I saw these two stones outside the stadium.

It reminded me of Psalm 118 in the Bible where it says--depending on which translation you read—“The stone that has been rejected will become the cornerstone.”

Those stones may seem discarded, but I bet they have some useful purpose.

Everybody has some purpose.

Sometimes the person who seems furthest away from what the mainstream of society is doing, or from what people who hold power want us to believe , is the person who in the end proves to have been speaking the truth all along.

The things we need to interpret the world and to communicate what we see in the world are all around us.

Some stones lying around. A camera phone. A measure of imagination and effort.

That’s all it takes. Just about anybody can do it. Folks often have much more ability than they realize.

April 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

Here is the weekly posting of the Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

Not to suggest that this is not a lot, but this is all I have for the blog reading public today.

The round-up—

Off the Kuff notes that when one Bradley goes away, another one gets nominated.

Three Wise Men examines the possibility of a federal government shutdown and what Republicans are doing with the budget in Texas.

Musings rounds up news on teacher layoffs across Texas.

Presenting the comedy gold of the Honorable Anthony Weiner of The Bronx, NY, now showing for a limited time at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme says you just have to read the paper to see how Republicans are destroying every thing and everybody they can.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson says It’s time for the left to join the class war. Continue reading

April 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wildflowers & Litter=Houston

Wildflowers and litter on a Houston street corner.

Houston has plenty of both wildflowers and litter.

Maybe some of the litter becomes compost and helps the wildflowers grow.

April 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Glendale Cemetery Next To Houston Ship Channel—The Dead Are Not Bothered By The Smell

As you can see from the picture above and from the picture below, the dead at Houston’s Glendale Cemetery are at eternal rest in close proximity of the Houston Ship Channel.

If you click the link above, you can read a brief history of the place and see pictures of the gravestones.

Glendale is Houston’s oldest cemetery. It was begun in 1826.

You might think it is noisy and smelly near the Houston Ship Channel.

Sure—But if you are dead those kinds of things don’t bother you so much.

(Photos copyright 2011 Neil Aquino.)

April 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

View From A Houston City Park

Here is the view from a Houston city park in the proximity of the Houston Ship Channel.

Just another day in the big city.

(Photo copyright 2011 Neil Aquino)

April 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments

As He Complains About Council Redistricting, What Work Has Councilmember James Rodriguez Done To Increase Latino Turnout In Houston?

A Houston City Council redistricting proposal has been offered by Mayor Annise Parker.

(Above–Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. That is Gerry as in gerrymander.)

Every ten years Houston must redistrict council seats to match the new census numbers.

Here is the City of Houston redistricting web page.

The current plan is a first draft. There will be hearings and then a final vote.

Here is the time and location of the redistricting hearings—

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
City Hall, 901 Bagby
2nd Floor, Council Chambers
9:00 a.m.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
City Hall, 901 Bagby
2nd Floor, Council Chambers
9:00 a.m.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
City Hall, 901 Bagby
2nd Floor, Council Chambers
7:00 p.m.

If you want to read the best analysis on this redistricting, check out the top local political blog Greg’s Opinion.

Charles Kuffner at Off The Kuff and Stace Medellin at Dos Centavos have also written on the redistricting plan.

One thing I read this morning in the Houston Chronicle’s redistricting story raised my eyebrows.

(Below—Raised eyebrows.)

From the Chronicle—

“The proposal also creates two new districts, as the city charter required once Houston topped 2.1 million residents. Hispanic voters make up 51 percent of the voting-age residents in each. District I Councilman James Rodriguez said that is insufficient…”I think it’s incumbent upon all Latino officials to get our numbers up,” Rodriguez said, but added that turnout alone cannot offset the insufficient numbers of Hispanics in the proposed A and F districts.”

I wish Councilman Rodriguez, a Democrat, would tell the people of Houston what hard work he has done to increase Latino turnout in our city. Whatever it is, he has not mentioned it on his campaign web page.

Here is all of what Mr. Rodriguez had to say abut the redistricting plan  as reported in the Campos Communication Blog.

Nothing in this statement indicates what Mr. Rodriguez has done to increase Latino turnout. It is all about what other people should be doing.

What has Mr. Rodriguez done to increase the often weak Latino turnout  in Houston?

I know I’ve not heard of any leadership from the Councilman on the brutal cuts being worked on in our Texas legislature.

Maybe this is because he has been working very hard on increasing Latino voter turnout in Houston.

If I’m missing something, please tell me.

It is easy to say you don’t like the districts that are being drawn up. It is more difficult to actually go out and work to get people to vote in every election.

We clearly need a greater Hispanic presence on Houston City Council.

Reaching that goal must be a two way street of fair district lines and increased Hispanic turnout.

(Another thing that would help bring about higher turnout and increased politcal involvement in Houston, would be Mayor Parker sharing some of the wealth from her million dollar fundraiser.)

(Below–Councilman Rodriguez)


April 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Houston Mayor Annise Parker Raises $1 Million—Good For Her Though Not So Meaningful For Most In Houston

Houston Mayor Annise Parker held a campaign kick-off fundraiser  yesterday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Houston.

Some Facebook friends who were at the function said that Mayor Parker, a Democrat, announced that the event had raised $1 million for her campaign.

If Mayor Parker raised $1 million, and if she remains without a credible 2011 challenger, maybe she can use some of that money for voter registration and voter turnout in our Hispanic communities. Maybe she can make a real effort to increase political awareness in our big apathetic city.

This would give substance to Ms. Parker’s 2009 claim of a civil rights-based grassroots victory.

In 2009, Ms. Parker proved that an openly gay person can be elected Mayor of the fourth largest city in the nation.

At the same time, it should be recalled that Ms. Parker won the 2009 election with 53% of the 16% of Houston voters who cast a ballot.

In 2011, Ms. Parker  has proven she is a good fundraiser.

While Ms. Parker’s 2009 victory remains an inspiration, there is not much hopeful to be found in the clear feeling of the great majority of Houston residents that city elections are not very important.

There is little grassroots enthusiasm for any politician in our city.

Mayor Parker’s million dollars is great news for her and her campaign.  For most of the rest of us in Houston, it doesn’t mean so much.

Though in the end, we must recall that it is up to the individual to make the call to work with others for a better city.

As that million dollars sitting in Mayor Parker’s campaign bank account reminds us yet again—no matter the claims of civil rights and grassroots—nobody will do the work of democracy for everyday citizens.

( Of course, this all is a two way street. Hispanic leaders in Houston have an obligation to work to increase turnout on their own.)

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 4 Comments

Thousands Protest At Texas Capitol Against State Budget—It Is Always The Right Day To Make Your Case

The photo above is from a rally held at our Texas State Capitol yesterday.

Thousands of concerned Texans marched to oppose the brutal State of Texas budget being considered by the Texas Legislature.

The Texas budget is in a shortfall because of the recession, and because of poor tax policy and public policy decisions made in recent years by the Republican-controlled legislature and by Governor Rick Perry.

Republican State Senator Steve Ogden, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, admits that Republican fiscal policy in Austin has been a significant cause of the current shortfall.

The marchers at the Capitol yesterday voiced a number of concerns that are of relevance to all Texans.

From the Texas Tribune

Organized by Texas Forward, the “Save our State” rally attracted citizens from around the state representing the Texas State Employees Union, Communication Workers of America, Texas Organizing Project and religious groups. Their concerns ranged from overtaxing the poor to the current version of the state budget, which proposes closing nursing homes and cutting education spending by $8 billion. “Our elderly will be on the streets. There will be no care for them. They are trying to disrupt our teachers and take away our schools books,” said Pam Neal, a protestor and office manager for the United Transportation Union. “It’s an attempt to dumb us down so that we will become subservient and low class citizens.”

It is always the right day to fight back. It is always the right day to make your case before the public. It is always the right day to be hopeful and to move forward.

Texas is better than what the Republican supermajority in Austin is planning for our state.  We care more about each other than Rick Perry imagines we do.

(Thanks to my friend and Top Texas Blogger Steve Whichard for his permission to use the photo at the top of this post.)

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments